Listen to the new remix album from August Burns Red!
Listen to the new remix album from August Burns Red!

JFH Staff Blog | March 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Exclusive - Kevin Max's Behind-The-Song for 'Broken Temples' Album

Check out this JFH exclusive behind-the-song look at Kevin Max's new album, Broken Temples, written by Kevin himself!

1.Good Kings Highway (Kevin Max, Josh Silverberg, Kipp Williams)
I started writing this song during the 2nd year on the road with Audio Adrenaline. This song came about one morning at Capitol records in Nashville, writing with my good friend Josh Silverberg.  Josh, Kipp Williams and I began to put together a track based on a melody that I had running around in my head.  We wanted to make the intro to the song a bit more epic than usual, so the original demo was much longer in scope. As the melody came into focus I started formulating lyrics on the spot, in the studio...I basically wrote out the finished lyrics within an hour or so.  The meaning behind GKH was taken from my visits to Haiti and seeing the lifestyle of the people, in conjunction with Hands and Feet orphanage.  I noticed so many men and women that had been displaced, and seemingly surviving on their own without any help.  There were many children growing up without a home or shelter, in the toxic conditions of a country on the edge of sanity.  I pictured a child in Haiti growing up trying to make his or her destiny happen without a parent or a society that could intervene. God's grace comes into play, and His natural way of helping us without us even knowing. The image of the open road or highway is a parallel to life… we walk down this road not knowing what will become of us, but trusting that somehow we will survive. The vibe of the song was obviously taken from the U2/Bruce Springsteen playbook…

 

2. You Light Me Up (Kevin Max, Jon Steingard)
This song was a grand experiment into writing a radio single. I have never really felt like I had the tools as a solo artist to accomplish this. Even on my first album, Stereotype Be, and its lone radio single 'Existence,’ I felt bewildered by the task. Radio has changed so drastically from the days of my early songwriting in the 80's and 90's.  I turned to a friend that had success within the marketplace and on radio, Jon Steingard of Hawk Nelson. We got together at his home and literally wrote 'Light Me Up' from scratch within a couple of hours.  The song came into being with me singing a falsetto line through a distorted guitar pedal. The opening vocal melody gave way to the overall track direction.  The lyrics of the song are obvious… well, at least to me they are… it’s a song about redemption, basically my story. 

 

3. Just As I Am (Kevin Max, Josh Silverberg)
 I have always been a fan of 80's music.  My first concert was Howard Jones in Grand Rapids Michigan, my hometown, followed by Adam Ant & U2. I wasn't like the other kids in my private Christian school who listened to soft rock or hair metal. I was fully committed to the New Wave. Those influences play directly into some of the songs on this album, and probably even the most obviously on 'Just As I Am.' Again this song came out of a publishers’ writing session with Josh and Kipp. I wanted to write a song about the prodigal son aspect of my life and that is the direction of the story. I would say that it is one of the more personal songs on the album, even though it feels like a dance track.  I have always loved the contrast between moody, heavy lyric content with joyful chord structure. *(See Morrissey or The Smiths for examples.) 

 

4. Clear (Kevin Max, Jeff Pardo)
Another experiment that I am trying to perfect in my writing process is the aspect of space within a track. The more you add to a song musically and instrumentally, the less space and or groove a song will have. By doing away with things that do not matter, you get to the heart of the vibe and the feel of the melody. When writing ‘Clear’ with Jeff Pardo in East Nashville, I brought him a recording of me singing the melody, and also a bass line that I had sung into my iTalk recorder. It might sound strange to start writing a song based off of a bass guitar line, but in this case it proved correct. This again shows the influences of my 80's New Wave self. In the vein of Duran Duran or Roxy Music, ‘Clear’ is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.  It’s also very much my blueprint within music - mixing those 80's sensibilities with honest lyrics.

 

5. When We Were Young (Kevin Max, Sam Timminez, Josh Bronleewe)
The subject matter of this song was far more important than the melody or track, in my opinion.  I wanted to write about the fact that in this day and age, we are losing our innocence across the globe. I remember growing up and never worrying about terrorism or witnessing the grotesque nature of ISIS. As I was born in 1967, it wasn't until I studied history that I realized how much atrocity lived in the world. Slavery, war, bigotry, greed, malice… we as a human race have proved how evil we can become. It is through the grace of God that we can overcome this, and the song 'When We Were Young' proves that children are our better selves.  Going back to the start and realizing that we were once pure of heart was a concept that I wanted to convey.  It’s a bit like an early John Lennon song about hands across the world, but it’s also a spiritual application and extremely relevant. It also subconsciously deals with the fact that we have become desensitized through modernization. The Internet and television have dropped the veil from guarded innocence, and now we broadcast our hatred and judgment across the computer screen to the world. We may think we have learned from our past from our issues with segregation and judgment, but it is apparent we haven't done much about it.  The style of the song came from the capable hands of Josh Bronleewe, a great programmer and musician.  I wanted this song to again have a dance quality to contrast against the heavy lyric.  Its sister song on the album 'Lay Down Your Weapons My Friend,' was its predecessor.

 

6. That Was Then & This Is Now (Kevin Max, Cory Basil, Stu Garrard)
Before I agreed to become the new lead singer of Audio Adrenaline I had recorded a few songs to be a musical companion to my novel Fiefdom of Angels.  One of these songs didn't fit that structure and I kept it hidden on my computer for quite some time. In the early stages of joining Audio Adrenaline, I stayed at Michael Tait's house in Brentwood, as I had sold my home in Nashville and had bought a new home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Moving back to Nashville was an easy enough process for me as I had lived there for over 2 decades prior. Before finding a home in Franklin for my growing family, I stayed with Michael. He was on the road all of the time with Newsboys, so his house on the hill in Brentwood was constantly empty. During those first few weeks of house hunting, dieting and exercising, I wrote songs in the basement of his home.  Armed only with my trusty synth I began to flesh out the song "That was Then'… from the earlier demo. I invited my good friend and artist buddy Cory Basil to come by one afternoon to listen to the song.  He added some ideas and with that I took the finished product to Stu G (formerly of Delirious) to finish the track.  Stu brought his British sensibilities to my obviously dated-80's-cinematic-guilty-pleasure song. When Josh Silverberg and I began to perfect it again, as an 11th hour addition to this album, I envisioned the tune being something on a soundtrack like the film Drive.

 

7. White Horse (Kevin Max, Brent Kutzle)
In the mid 2000's I lived in Los Angeles, California and performed constantly on the Sunset Strip. At the legendary 'Viper Room' I had residencies back to back. During those years I performed with several bands that were up and coming as well as big names that had already become successful. Katy Perry, then Katy Hudson, shared the stage with me as well as a band called The One Republic.

I began a friendship with Ryan Teter and we wrote a couple of songs together before their hit single 'Apologize' blew them into the universal orbit.  I met Brent Kutzle during those years and called on him to help me with a track on this album.  ‘White Horse’ is a song that Brent had written and I only helped him flesh it out to a finished track.  Josh Silverberg co-produced long distance with Brent and we saw it come into shape over a few weeks of back and forth.  It’s obviously an apocalyptic subject, but I also feel an undertone of modern worship in the music. White Horse was something, much like "Kings and Queens' from the Audio A 2.0 album, that I could have never written by myself. 

 
8. Another Big Mistake (Derek Webb Remix) I am not a fan of re-mixes, let me state that first and foremost.  Whenever I see artists putting out a whole album of re-mixes, I cringe. I think it’s a lazy way of putting out product without having to create something through hard work. So… the reason I put a couple of re-mixes on this album are this. 1. I didn't want this to be an EP, and at the time we didn't have financial means or schedule to produce more songs. 2. My great friend Derek Webb, with whom I have the utmost respect for as a musician, agreed to performing his 'deconstruction' of my songs. Like a musical Picasso, I wanted Derek to take my two favorite tracks on the album and turn them upsidewaysdown.

 

9. Going Clear (Derek Webb Remix)
Same rules apply...

10. Infinite (Kevin Max, Kyle Lee)
‘Infinite’ was the second song written for Broken Temples.  The first was a song that never saw the light of day called 'Outside The Door.' It was a song I pitched to the early songwriting process of the 'Kings and Queens' album. It was deemed too 'Beatlesque' so I tampered it and wrote a song called 'Infinite.'  I recorded this demo on my trusty iPhone, iTalk app and brought it to a writing session with a gentleman named Kyle Lee. Kyle was set up in Toby Mac's studio in Franklin, TN, just down the road from my house.  Within a few minutes, we had the beginnings of the song already recorded. I'd like to say it was the quickest and most simple song I have written in quite some time. A friend of mine likened it to a nursery rhyme or Sunday school song… I take that as a compliment. The subject material of the lyrics is obvious.  Taken from the playbook of C.S. Lewis and William Blake, God is bigger in depth and scope than we can imagine.

11. Freak Flag (Kevin Max, Jason Walker)
During the 'Kings & Queens' process I wanted to write several old school Audio Adrenaline rockers. I was a big fan of their early career, as they were our compadres on Forefront. (dctalk discovered the band at Kentucky Christian College and brought their demo to the label ). I loved songs like 'Mighty Good Leader, Chevette & Scum Sweetheart'….but the 90's had come and gone in Christian Music, and sadly even when we played these old hits live, the crowds didn't seem to get them. That opportunity to write these type of songs never came, as management and label wanted a more mature AA. Mark Stuart and I actually did write a couple of songs that bordered on the old style, but the songs eventually saw their demise. ‘Freak Flag’ was written for the Audio A 2.0, album 2, which never came into being. Jason Walker, my friend and fellow band member and I sat down at his home studio and laughed our way through the first demo stages of the tune.  It was shelved for quite some time as I went through the gauntlet of the changes that would see me becoming a solo artist again and not moving forward with yet another incarnation of the Audio A brand. I took the song in its unfinished form and Rob Hawkins, the producer of the 1st side of the album, worked it up into what you hear now. It’s an anthem, its tongue in cheek, it has time traveled back from the 1990's, just for you.

 

12.  Lay Down Your Weapons My Friend  (Kevin Max, Paul Moak) Paul Moak… what an artist… what a guitar player… what a producer.  Paul auditioned as a very young lad with a very large pedal board for the dctalk solo tour.  He became my guitar player for my segment of the show.  He would open each performance playing a real Sitar. Many moons have passed and now Paul is one of the premiere producers in Nashville.  Situated in the most fantastical studios in Berry Hill, he creates the anthems for hipsters and serious musicians daily. I asked him to write a song for me in the early stages of writing for 'Kings & Queens.' We wrote this song in a day and recorded it.  Later, Paul put his finishing touches on it without even letting me know.  He sent it through the Internet completed and feeling like a track that John Lennon would have been proud of. Stylistically it also hearkens to the 1950's, with Stephanie Smith singing great background vocal embellishments. The lyrics are heavy and represent one of the biggest issues we are dealing with today: Forgiveness.

 

 

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Open Letter To Mark Stuart and the Audio A Camp, by Alex Caldwell

The wholesale lineup changes that Audio Adrenaline has foisted on their fan base in the last few years are frustrating and contribute to the cynicism that many feel towards the music industry (Christian and secular branches alike). It’s been done too many times and a line has to be drawn here.

Now, the common critique of letters like this is that there are so many other things in our world that are much more worthy of our outrage, our time and our efforts. I agree. That’s why I’m also going to spend the exact amount of time I’ve spent crafting this letter into writing one to my state’s governor about the lack of options for the homeless here in New Hampshire, and then another extra hour or two working with the outreach team from my church. (Something I already do.) But cynicism is a problem. I feel it encroaching on my life day by day. And it’s a battle to keep it at bay, to let the Lord soften my heart and open my eyes to all that He wants to do through me in this world.

I was once a wide-eyed, hopeful kid, and your music was very much the soundtrack to those times. During my Junior year of high school I spent the wee hours of a youth group lock-in discussing “Scum Sweetheart” with a friend, and being honest about how tough the pull of the world was feeling to us. This conversation convinced both of us commit to helping each other navigate the tricky teen waters of hormones and identities. A guy at summer camp taught me the chords to “Rest Easy” and I sang that song at the top of my lungs around a campfire with little campers singing along. The summer I graduated, I went on a road trip on a brilliant month in July and took Bloom along with me. “See Through” and “Man Of God” sparked amazing conversations with my fellow travelers, and I still quote “See Through” to my daughters, urging them to look at Jesus as the perfect one, and dad as the one who, on his best days, points to the Savior. (“Don’t you know that God loves you, don’t you know that I try to? I’ve been known to miss my cue, but don’t look at me, I’m see through.”) “Bag Lady” helped to convince me to break out of my comfort zone and strike up a relationship with the homeless lady who camped out near my college in Philly. Later, as a youth pastor, I sat around a campfire at a music fest with a retired pastor friend who was battling cancer and the feeling of uselessness to God. Though he was decidedly out of your demographic, he had been moved to tears by “Hands And Feet”, and your challenge from the stage that there was no one out there who God couldn’t use. Another kid in my youth group (the pastor’s son) loved “Chevette” because, to him, it was the story of his dad and his family.

These stories matter to me, and many other fans out there, and the cynicism builds in our hearts when we are presented with a new product that has the old name on it. It makes us suspicious that there is an ulterior motive at work, and that we are seen as mere lemmings, mindless consumers who will greet this new version of something we once loved with a Pavlovian response to simply accept this new change with open arms; like there is no history, no collection of stories built up in our hearts. When I hear new music from an artist I once loved, it’s like being visited by an old friend.

And, you already did this once before!

I even enjoyed the last incarnation of the band. I enjoyed seeing Will bouncing around up on stage. I enjoyed hearing your voice on “King Of The Comebacks.” I enjoyed the album, and the attention it was bringing to the Hands And Feet Project. I cried a bit when I saw the “Kings And Queens” video, and I enjoyed introducing my daughters to the music and bringing them to your shows. They love “Big House” and “Ocean Floor” and I was happy to share a memory with them.

But a third time? A third time in just over two years?

That frustrates me, and appeals to the cynic in me that says that it’s all about the money; all about capitalizing on a “brand” instead of an actual band full of people with chemistry (the kind it takes time to develop) and a shared history. We live in such a manufactured world. But art can’t be assembled like an automobile. It’s an intangible thing that doesn’t have interchangeable parts the way my computer does. It’s organic and can’t be assembled in a studio.

I fully recognize that there is much more behind the scenes than I could ever realize, and that there are many considerations, not to mention the projects and ministries that benefit from what you are trying to do. It’s just that we haven’t heard any explanations, just a “here’s your new version of the band!” It’s hard not to be dubious.

So please, call off this continuation of Audio Adrenaline and start something new. Start something for the kid out there to fall in love with, to take on a road trip, to listen to late at night and consider a new truth. Do something original, something new for that kid and the wide-eyed, arms-wide-open kid that I once was. Art matters, authenticity matters. Thanks for the great memories, and may all of our lives have an impact on those around us for the sake of the Kingdom.

Sincerely,

Alexander Caldwell

Tilton, New Hampshire

 

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

10 Years Later - Audio Adrenaline, 'Until My Heart Caves In'

It's certainly hard to believe that a decade has passed since Audio Adrenaline released what would end up being their final studio album. Until My Heart Caves In was a bittersweet record, as it showcased even less of lead singer Mark Stuart's vocals than the previous album had (Worldwide), with guitarist Tyler Burkum filling in more and more. To diehard fans of the original identity of the band, it came as a pretty hard pill to swallow. (Honestly, I didn't care for the record at all at first, and was immensely disappointed after my first listen.)

Still, Until My Heart Caves In is an appropriate final bow, of sorts. The opener, "Clap Your Hands," was a fantastic show starter and it represented the kind of fun rock anthems the band had always offered. "King" was a great original worship song that captured the spirit of their album LIFT and also offered enough of that radio sensibility to keep casual listeners happy. Other highlights like "Undefeated" and their cover of "Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher" helped give some extra punch to a more raw rock effort than Worldwide. But the heartbreaking closer, "Losing Control," is even more bittersweet given that it wrapped up the band's final studio album with original members Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss, and longtime members Tyler Burkum and Ben Cissell. The additional tracks on their official farewell hits collection, Adios, were nice encores, but to this day, Until My Heart Caves In marked the end of an era.

Today, in 2015, 8 years after Audio Adrenaline played their final show as a band in Hawaii, the name "Audio Adrenaline" lives on with all new members, carrying the banner to support the orphanage the band started in Haiti, The Hands & Feet Project. While it will never quite be the same, the heart of the band continues. With a new studio album with the new four members releasing May 5th, and a new single, "Love Was Stronger"--a cover of artist Josiah James' song--available on iTunes and at radio while they tour with Newsboys, it's a completely different time and season for Audio Adrenaline. The sound of the new single is unlike anything on Until My Heart Caves In, fitting in more so with the current trends of CCM radio, but it remains to be seen (and heard) where the brand's next album, Sound of the Saints, fits in their discography.

Until My Heart Caves In will always hold a special place in this reviewer's heart as being the closing statement of the original embodiment of Audio Adrenaline -- and it still sounds good, even 10 Years Later.

-- John DiBiase

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